Blake Snow

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Tagged music

My favorite music of 2010

Those who know me well know that I love music. In terms of audio/visual entertainment, nothing compares. Not movies. Not games. Definitely not TV.

When opening it up to all forms of entertainment, music is right up there with books and dancing. In other words, if an armed man asked me which I’d prefer, I’d have a really hard time and probably die trying. What’s more, the latter is virtually impossible to enjoy without music.

That said, this is the new music I most enjoyed last year. New to me, at least. Call it my top bands, whatever. I had this stuff in heavy iTunes rotation last year: Continue reading…

It’s official: Frank Sinatra has a better Christmas voice than Bing Crosby

frank sinatra christmasI grew up on White Christmas and it’s awesome. Arguably the best Christmas album of all time.

But after 25 years of listening memories, I think I’m finally ready to say that Frank Sinatra has the better Christmas voice. His renditions of White Christmas, I’ll be Home for Christmas, and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas are the best I’ve ever heard. Even better than Bing.

Am I wrong?

Either way, what’s your favorite Christmas artist? (WARNING: Any mention of Mannheim Steamroller will be immediately deleted.)

I love one-hit wonder royalty stories

Yahoo: Songwriter “Dirty Dancing” all the way to the bank

The New Jersey musician, whose first name is pronounced “Frankie,” co-wrote the film’s climactic anthem “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” a tune that helped turn a small coming-of-age tale into one of the biggest movies of all time.

Previte estimates that he gets quarterly checks of $10,000 to $30,000 for radio airplay, additional quarterly checks of $50,000 to $100,000 from the hit stage adaptation, and annual checks of $100,000-$125,000 when the song is used in commercials.


See also: Despite being 50 years old, my favorite jazz song makes $100k year

Isn’t it exhilarating the first time you realize your kids know more than you do?

I know because it happened to me this week.

I was in the living room. My five year old was sitting beside her mother on the sofa. All of the sudden, I hear the former speaking in this foreign language. Not an idiom. Music notation! She was reading aloud music! Passing off her piano homework to her mother!

“My kid knows how to read music!!” I thought to myself. “Even I don’t know how to do that!!” (Yes, there were exclamation points after all of these sentences.)

I can only imagine what other things she’ll learn as she grows older — things I never did.

You have no idea how proud this makes me as a father. It makes me want to sing “We are the world” or something. What an awesome feeling.


Despite being 50 years old, my favorite jazz song makes $100k year

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That’s what I call perpetuity.

According to Spirited Men by Brian Doyle, Dave Brubeck’s classic cool jazz track Take Five makes a cool $100,000 a year in royalties. Imagine how much it made at its height in the early ’60s!? Yeah, baby!

Cooler still, the beneficiary of said royalties is none other than one of my favorite charities: The Red Cross. Song writer and Brubeck saxophonist Paul Desmond left the rights to the song to The Cross upon his death in 1977, as opposed to some deadbeat son like Will from About a Boy.

Bonus link: Radiohead vs. Dave Brubeck mashup in 5/4 (Thanks, Lexi Sara).

The history of rap

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This is really well done. Fallon’s delivery is impressive, especially for a night show host. The Roots on backup are phenomenal. (Thanks, Mark)

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could rate your music with volume increases instead of stars?

itunesMark Milian describes the best enhancement to iTunes one could ever hope for:

Music software has no way of knowing whether you like one song more than the previous, unless the user chooses to actively rate a track — thumb up in Pandora, 5-star picks in iTunes. Most people, I’d assume, don’t make the effort.

But you might find that many people, when they hear a song they like, will pump up the volume. Music services could listen to that, and take note for future instances of when it’s deciding what to play.

Do this, Apple. It would make iTunes loads smarter.

5+ bands I’m digging right now

dj-headphonesIn addition to this recent discovery, the following have been in heavy rotation on my iTunes lately:

  1. Miike Snow. Incredible album. All songs either 4- or 5-star rated. Standouts include Animal, Song for No One, Burial, and Faker. (previously on Smooth Harold)
  2. Helio Sequence. With exception to the last two songs (boring), this is a lovely album. Hallelujah is the most awesome.
  3. Kid Cudi. The non glamorous lyrics and futuristic beats are a breath of fresh air. Still, this is sometimes indulgent hip-hop. So I bought the clean version ‘cuz I’m like that (Hi, kids).
  4. Empire of the Sun. Only half of this album is good (the first four songs plus the last). But man are they good.
  5. Loscil. Mmm, space music. Excellent background sounds that still keep things interesting.

Honorable mention: Gregory Brothers, if only for their sweet auto-tune remix skills.

My two-year old is a rocker

headbangerLike her daddy, I recently learned that my two-year old has a fetish for really good blues rock.

While listening to Band of Skulls on the way to St. George this weekend, Lindsey and Sadie weren’t as excited to hear the band. Meanwhile, I caught Maddie in a self-taught and deliberate headbang—she enjoyed it so much.

Rock. On.

Top 5 new bands of the last decade (with video)


After much mental torment, I’ve decided to name the best new bands of the last decade. For one to qualify, they must have met the following criteria: 1) be awesome; and 2) formed in the year 2000 or beyond (which excludes Spoon, Muse, and The Strokes for example).

With the power vested in me, I hereby announce the winners. Continue reading…

Top 10 best Killers songs (with embedded videos)

killers 2008

Prediction: The Killers will end being the best rock band of the decade. They have a fresh sound without straying too far from their rock roots. They’re ambitious, hoping to knock bands such as Led Zeppelin and Nirvana “off their pedestal.” And unlike 90% of most promising bands, their albums have gotten progressively better over time (sorta like Led Zeppelin and Nirvana—go figure.) I expect many more great songs from them in the future, but for now, these are their 10 best.

Top 5 best Beatles songs sung by George Harrison

George Harrison, Beatles, Let it Be cover

To commemorate the Beatles’ remastered catalog (which I will not be buying, especially since its CD only), I thought it an appropriate time to cash in on the uptick in Beatlesmania interest, some 40 years after the band broke up. So without further adieu, I give you: The top five greatest Beatles tracks sung by George Harrison. He may have only canaried 30 songs of hundreds, but when he did—man were they good.

Continue reading…

The most studly photo of Michael Jackson ever (or Why he was bigger than the Beatles)

Michael Jackson with President Reagan and First Lady in 1984

Look at this photo taken in 1984. Who is visiting who here??!! It’s as if the Reagans are Michael’s guests—not the other way around. And I love how Jackson coolly waves to his fans, while the most powerful man in the world and the First Lady appear to radiate in Jackson’s company. It was reported that an aid called the starstruck White House “really king of embarrassing.”

The term “global icon” is overused. Few people or things ever really become global phenomena. (Even the Beatles popularity was limited to America and Britain.) But Michael was one of them, because he was the greatest performer that ever lived (despite his being unthinkably bizarre), and he’s right up there with Bach, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Kraftwerk as one of the most influential artists of all time.

Top 10 best Michael Jackson songs

mj.jpgMichael Jackson was undoubtedly the most disturbed musician of all time. He’s also the greatest R&B performer ever—both as a singer and a dancer—and a top 10 all-time artist, right next to Mozart, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin. If you’ve forgotten how talented he was in the recording studio or on stage, I encourage you to listen to Thriller, the best-selling album of all time.

With the King of Pop’s new summer tour announcement recent death, I can’t think of a better time to list his best hits. There are 20 other songs equally worthy of the honor, but in terms of what gets me moving the most, these are the top 10 Michael Jackson songs of awesome: Continue reading…

Blog bragging: I’m kind of a big deal


At E3 2009 in Los Angeles last week, I went for the games, but I ended up seeing two musical acts that I think are tops: The Beatles (specifically Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr), and DJ Shadow. Though at opposite ends of the musical spectrum, both artists were/are pioneers in the their own right.

I sat about 150 feet from both McCartney and Starr, as they unveiled the upcoming Beatles Rock Band game. “The game is good, the graphics are very good—we we’re great,” Starr said to roaring laughter. Since they quit touring in 1966, it was an honor to be in their presence. Continue reading…

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DJ Hero, Beatles Rock Band to melt faces this fall

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I had the chance to play both DJ Hero and Beatles Rock Band this week. Fully. Awesome. While my interest in rhythm games has waned recently due to overexposure, these two tickled all the right spots to get me excited again. Cannot wait.

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Vinyl records sustain digital future

Author’s note: This is the piece I pitched to the Miami Herald and DJ Times after our stay in Fort Lauderdale. The Herald said it was too “trade specific” and the Times said it was too “Stanton specific,” so I’m publishing it here so it can see the light of day. Enjoy.


HOLLYWOOD, Fl. — Despite three decades of newer technology, vinyl records are still crackling. In fact, vinyl sales grew last year, doubling to almost two million in the U.S., according to Nielsen Media Research—the highest they’ve been since 1991.

“Though vinyl’s popularity waned with the emergence of cassettes and CDs in the late 1980s, records continue to hold a niche in the music marketplace, especially among audiophiles and DJs,” says Joshua Friedlander, vice president of research for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Helping to boost last year’s total is a growing number of teens who prefer the collectible nature and warmer sound of vinyl—comparable to listening to a “live” self-playing piano, as opposed to flat MP3s, which are often forgotten as quickly as they are downloaded.

Continue reading…

I’m a bedroom DJ again


After a three year hiatus, I exhumed my turntables from under my bed last month. The “wheels of steel” proudly rest beneath Joe DiMaggio in my office now, and I’ve officially rekindled my love for analog sound, which is deeper and more “alive” than the high-fidelity of DVDs.

It’s hard to explain the enjoyment that comes from mixing and interacting with records (also known as blending or beat-syncing). It’s not as liberating as playing an instrument, but it’s not as passive as listening to a CD or MP3. The turntables are more microphone than music player. The records are the voices and are highly manipulable, thanks to the hands-on approach and tempo-shifting abilities of standard direct-drive tables.

Continue reading…

Apple is the new Microsoft (they’re just a lot cooler)

img1.jpgNewsweek has the story:

Apple is looking like what Microsoft was 10 years ago—a Bigfoot that squeezes smaller competitors. A former lieutenant of Steve Jobs’s once told me something surprising about his ex-boss. “Steve is a monopolist at heart,” he said. “He’s just like Bill Gates. He just hasn’t been as successful.”

Gone are the days where Apple was the hip underdog. Now they’re becoming the cool monopoly, and I’m fine with it so long as their products stay fresh and the prices remain competive.

“Hey, I’m in the band!”

The Swing (2003)

Before high school graduation, a mission, college, marriage, two children, and a semi-real job, I was an aspiring rock star. I learned to play guitar and wrote my first song at age 14. I joined my first band (a trio named Formaldehyde) at 15, as singer and guitarist. We were kind of a big deal in po dunk Carrollton at the time (insert smiley face). I even got stopped at the local Blockbuster and movie theater by adoring fans (for reals).

Continue reading…

Even naked album covers grow up

Remember how embarrassed Elaine from Seinfeld was when she discovered her home made Christmas card — photographed by Kramer — partially exposed her right nipple? That was only sent to a few dozen people. Now imagine if gajillions of people saw your wedding tackle, in full view mind you, on the cover of Nirvana’s seminal 1991 album, Nevermind.

Continue reading…

My jaded review of Coachella 2008

img12.jpgI had the opportunity to mix business with pleasure and attend Coachella in Palm Springs over the weekend. Here are my fragmented thoughts:

  • The facilities are top-notch. From condiment tables, cleanliness, artist murals, and precise sound systems, to the easy-going crowds made it an enjoyable experience. I was dreading Lollapalooza-like mayhem, but the polo grounds were a delight. Did I just mention the facilities as the most memorable part of the show? I think I did. Continue reading…

My eccentric taste in music doesn’t go unnoticed

My whole life I’ve been ridiculed by numerous persons for my taste in music, my wife Lindsey included. Imagine my satisfaction then, to discover her current iTunes playlist, of which 43 percent of the songs were introduced to her by yours truly (highlighted in blue). Not bad, eh?

I can’t take all the credit, however. The following individuals have greatly influenced my love of music from five years of age to my current 28: My mom and dad. My sisters Summer and Lexia (Cami and Sara weren’t the most vanguard at the time). My brother Brooks. Dylan Denney. Josh Rhine. Wesley Lovvorn. Tim Mobley. Chris Carrino. Chris Chatlean. Tim Ormond. Micah Alldrege. Jon Reed. Jared Richards. Lindsey Snow. Eric Larsen. Steven Smith. Matt Andersen. David Cole. Chris Morell. Kyle Crane.

I’m forgetting several more, but those are the ones that stand out. Thanks for tipping me off to distinct tune-age, all!

The Promise is the greatest one-hit wonder from the Eighties

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After much deliberation, and nearly two decades later, I have finally made up my mind: The Promise by When In Rome is the greatest one-hit wonder from the Eighties. It’s better than Devo’s Whip It, better than A-Ha’s Take On Me (A-ha), more lasting than Come On Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, more diverse than Tainted Love by Soft Cell, and has more heart than Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang. It’s so choice, as is the beat, the contrasting vocals, and the splendid synth bass.

The hair? Not so much.

Where would dance, hip-hop, Eighties, and electronic music be without Raymond Scott?

For those who don’t know me personally, I’m a big fan of electronic music. I can listen to the stuff for hours and perhaps even listen to it more than live compositions — the sound is just so tight, so crisp.

Raymond Scott, a sound engineer and musician born in 1908, was an early pioneer of electronic music. I understand he was one of the first artists to create songs using only computers.

Recorded sometime between 1953-’69, this is one of my favorite tracks of his. I shutter to think where we’d be musically without this man’s contributions. Good stuff.

Jacko’s Thriller turns 25 this week

Michael Jackson is a freak — and I’m not talking about his exorbitant lifestyle or questionable relationship with children. I’m talking about his superlative ability to sing, dance, and entertain.

His seminal album, Thriller, was released 25 years ago this week. Selling an unthinkable 104 million copies worldwide, it’s still the second most widely purchased album of all time after the Eagle’s Greatest Hits.

It is impossible to listen to this album and not bounce your head, rock your hips, or move your feet. Although difficult in picking just one, I’ll say Human Nature is my favorite song from this well-aged record. It’s a shame Jackson wasn’t as talented offstage.

Who said pretending wasn’t any fun?

Rob Walker of the New York Times seemingly belittles the enjoyment level of my latest addiction, Guitar Hero III. And I quote:

“You’re not actually playing the guitar. No matter how good you may get at Guitar Hero, if you decide to take up the real instrument at some point, you’ll be starting from scratch.”

Being that the man writes for the Times, I’m sure he can appreciate the difference between the entertaining fantasy of video games and the dedication required to learn, play, and ultimately enjoy creating live music — in this case with a guitar.

Guitar Hero works, however, because it convincingly feels like you are a seasoned musician, even if you play real guitar like myself.

I’ve played rhythm guitar for 14 years now. I’ve also performed live in several bands to crowds upwards of 300 people. It is a powerful experience.

Why would I play Guitar Hero then? Because I can be the lead guitarist that I never was. Because I can play songs that otherwise would take much more practice to pull off. Because I can stir feelings from my youth — a memorable time in my life that has since past as the adult in me pursues more rewarding ends.

That’s why.

My new favorite musician: Paolo Nutini

Lindsey and I were channel surfing on Saturday night before stopping on PBS HD to listen to the charismatic Paolo Nutini live in concert. I came away very impressed with the 20-year old Scottish-Italian that sounds like a mix of Bob Marly and Bob Dylan. Man, can he sing.

His album, These Streets, features the most original lyrics I’ve listened to all year. Last Request, Rewind, Million Faces, These Streets, New Shoes, White Lies, and Autumn all come highly recommended. Definitely check out this easy listening if you haven’t already.

[Currently Drinking: Shirley Temple]

Why three band members are better than four or more

The image It’s been more than two years since I’ve seen a live band perform, the last being a piano-rock trio named Keane. Before that, it was 2-3 years since seeing a live concert as this thing called life, family, and work slowly takes over.

Tonight I’m going to seeing another trio named Muse with some friends. While I enjoy groups of all sizes (I’m an equal-opportunity fanman), I’ve always liked three-man rock bands for the following reasons: Continue reading…

Playback: “I’m a Fool To Do Your Dirty Work”

I was recently introduced to a new 70’s song over the weekend that I’m completely enamored with: “I’m a Fool To Do Your Dirty Work” by Steely Dan (not to be confused with Stealers Wheel as I often do). I’ve had the song on loop for the last 35 minutes. Love it!

I first heard the track as the outgoing song to Once in a Lifetime, a documentary about the rise and fall of the NASL. It’s an interesting and informative film not to mention a case study on how not to run a business. Despite the league being a flop, soccer moms around the country can thank it for laying the ground work for the sport in America and the some 20 million players here.

You can dload the Steely track from iTunes here. Get that!

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Superb documentary on copyright and remix culture

I’m on a roll with controversial documentaries. I just finished watching Good Copy Bad Copy in which independent Danish filmmakers examine copyright law in the US and abroad. It’s fascinating to see how other countries treat IP, let alone make money from music and movies in ways the RIAA and movies aren’t even close to understanding or trying. I don’t necessarily have a solution to the challenges that piracy creates, but this 58 minute film is a must-see on the subject. Download the torrent here (it’s free!)

[via BoingBoing]

The Best Music Video. Ever.

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I’m on a kick of digging up old-school YouTube videos lately when I should be working, but I couldn’t pass this one up. It’s Radiohead’s most excellent No Surprises video (it’s also my favorite track from OK Computer). Don’t be fooled, though; director Grant Lee used ninja editing skills to make it appear as if lead singer Thom York held his breath longer than he really did.

The sound of progress, effort, and dedication

My wife Lindsey is learning the piano taking formal weekly lessons. She used play when she was younger, but has since forgotten some of her chops. So for the last 6-7 months, she has been practicing often after she puts the baby down to sleep. The sweet sound fills our house. Though she doesn’t yet sound like Mozart, Liszt, or Beethoven, the aural harmony of progress, practice, effort, hard work, and dedication is music to my ears.

It’s very motivating for me to hear this change in action. My line of work is either visual, experiential, or cognitive so my ears don’t get to participate in gauging my development (if any). So outside of practicing musical instruments, I can’t think of many skills where you can hear actual progress aloud. Keep up the good work, Lindz!

My favorite music of early 2007

I like music. I like it even better in iTunes. So with that, here are the artists, albums, and songs heavy in my rotation for early 2007 ordered by ones I’m listening to the most. Nota bene: these aren’t necessarily what have been released in early 2007, just what I’m currently listening to:

  • Ben Kweller(Self Titled): Ben Kweller’s latest album is just awesome. This kid can write, sing, and play good tuneage. I can’t get enough of this album and even my wife likes it. That’s a rarity. “Nothing Happening,” “Sundress,” “Magic,” and “Until I Die” are the standout tracks, but all are good.
  • PheonixAlphabetical AND “Rally” from It’s Never Been Like That Where to begin? Pheonix is one fine electronic/traditional band. Their songs seem a bit flat at times, but flat in a good way. Never overproduced. Just right. Excellent band and a newly discovered one for me in 2007.
  • MagnetOn Your Side AND The Tourniquet. Norwegian songwriter Magnet can do no wrong. Both of these albums will go down as a pair of my all-time favorites. Want beautiful, soft, acoustic/electronic music? Look no further. Magnet is stellar.
  • BeckThe Information. It’s Beck’s new album! What more could you ask for? My favorite track is the current single, “Think I’m In Love.”
  • Teddybears – “Different Sound.” Their Soft Machine album is a bit out there, but “Different Sound” is such an infectious song. Highly recommended track.
  • Daft PunkHuman After All. The. Best. Electronic. Album. Out. Right. Now. Recorded in only six weeks, this one is clearly underrated. Human After All is almost exclusively what I listen to when running (if I’m running).
  • The Clientele – “(I Can’t Seem To) Make You Mine.” I can’t speak for the entire album, but I really dig this bands soothing sounds.
  • Philip GlassThe Illusionist (Soundtrack). Minimalist classical music at its finest. I think I’ve listened to the theme track over 75 times in the last month alone.

Of course, my playlists are also peppered with 80’s, classical, and a bunch of other stuff, but this is what has my attention as of late. I’m also anticipating Air’s new album due March 5 (new single here). Mmmm. Air. What are you currently listening to?

Apple embraces DRM-less music

Steve Jobs posted an excellent article today backing a DRM-less music file for the masses. That means you play the file when you want and where you want independent of music players. Even iPods. From Jobs’s callout to the big four record companies: “If [DRM] were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies… Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.”

UPDATE: iTunes currently protects songs that are already DMR-less at Not to side with the big record lables, but perhaps Steve is up to something else. More here.

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Keane Concert Review

I have been very excited to see Keane live in concert. Their CD Hopes & Fears has been one of my favorites over the past year. Their is a certain freshness to the album, even given that some of their songs do sound similar. But how do the they sound live? How are they as performers?

First off, for those of you comparing Keane to Coldplay, their is no comparison. Keane has outplayed them with only one record to Coldplay’s three. Haven seen both in concert, I must say Keane brought so much more energy, enjoyment and freshness to their live sound. The lead singer’s voice is one of the prettiest, melodic voices I’ve ever heard. It’s that good. The piano player rocks. He constantly was on the verge of knocking over his piano. The drummer is tight and ads the perfect rhythm section san bass (bass is sequenced on a laptop). The two sure do bring a lot of energy and sound for only having two musicians playing . The light and video was something I didn’t expect, but brought an additional level of ambiance to the already full sound at the lovely Abravanel Hall in downtown SLC. One of the nicest venues I’ve ever been to.

The evening was a blast! The music was even better. Very good show! A+